Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Friends of Dance Scholarship Recipient Reflections: Julianna Joss

Julianna Joss is a rising senior, majoring in Political Science and Dance/ Movement Studies.  She is a 2016 recipient of the Sally A. Radell Friends of Dance Scholarship to train at the Bates Dance Festival.

The First Step

When I reflect on three weeks of movement and creativity, the first thing that comes to mind is quite visceral and even cliché; the notion of “self-love.”

Self-love carries many false connotations; those gesturing at complacency, egotism, and self-importance.  However, my time at the Bates Dance Festival demonstrated that true self-love cultivates quite the opposite.

I took a 9 am Pilates class at Bates.  And this was not your run-of-the-mill Pilates course; we dove deep into the form.  We worked under the watchful eyes of a partner often, we completed exercises at an intentional slow pace, and our teacher, Robbie Cook, took the time to explain concepts.  Many times, his explanations and tidbits of wisdom felt like they held universal applicable meaning in life, beyond the studio, beyond the mat. 

The reality of breaking an exercise down and “doing it the right way” is it is painfully illuminating.  I have been doing Pilates since I was in elementary school, as a supplement to my ballet training, and the first time, I actually did a roll-up (fully and correctly), was this summer.  And the fact of the matter is, I still struggle; I still have much to work toward.

In my Ballet V course, my teacher, Rachel List, patiently reminded me several times to keep my focus up and to keep my core organized – corrections I have received from numerous ballet masters over the past 18 years of training.

Douglas Gillespie, my Modern IV teacher, cautioned me to take care of my body and not to throw myself on the ground, in order to preserve my knees.  This is a very basic lesson of floor work in modern dance.

During my rehearsal for Marianela Boan’s Repertoire course, she told me I needed to jump higher.  Allegro has always been my greatest strength as a dancer, so her observation could have been disheartening.

So, what does this mean?  I tirelessly practiced these forms.  I dedicated the greater portion of my child, adolescent, and now, adult life to dance.  I traveled to Maine for a professional training program and I realized I am still fighting the same battles in some ways and in other ways; I’ve uncovered new ones.  There’s so much work left to do.

But this is not disheartening. 

While giving a nuanced correction in Pilates, a couple groans erupted from classmates, realizing the difficulty and complexity of the exercise.  And Robbie calmly said,

“But now you know what you need to do.  And this is where self-love comes into play.  You can see what’s wrong, get down on yourself, and give up.  Or you can see what’s wrong and love yourself because you have the ability to fix it.”

Through my years of training, I have developed a deep, unconditional love for dance as an art form, for my teachers (we don’t mention them enough in our careers - Helen Clarke, Steven Hyde, Lori Teague, Anna Leo, Blake Beckham, Greg Catellier, Mara Mandradjieff, Sally Radell, George Staib, thank you and I love you all), for performers I’ve watched, for my fellow community of dancing friends, but what seems so impossibly trite that I would ignore and overlook is love for myself.

Because the reality is, if you don’t love yourself enough to recognize the beauty, the uniqueness, the “youness,” and the tremendous abilities of your body, then the improvement will never come.  The cultivation of artistry and a voice will never realize.  Too many years, I loathed my body and myself because I didn’t have the arched feet, the 180-degree turnout, the high extensions, the six pirouettes, or the long Achilles tendons.  My time at Emory began this process of self-love for me and my experience at Bates solidified it.  Self-love enables us to change, to do better because we recognize what we have to offer.  We accumulate more wisdom and we unlearn bad habits.  Most importantly, we become more because we recognize all that we are.

I walk away from Bates invigorated, happy in my person and in the humble piece I have to offer the art form.  But I am neither content nor settled.  The acceptance and subsequent readiness to move forward are why my perspectives and boundaries were pushed and my dancing deepened over the past three weeks.  I am neither complacent nor self-absorbed in my pursuit of self-love; rather, the opposite.  I became more energized, willing, and open to working, improving, and pushing myself further as an artist and a human being.

As I reflect on the invigorating dynamic classes I took, the community of creative, fearless artists I became a part of, the breathtaking performances I bore witness to, and the energizing finale that I performed in, I see the first step of loving myself.  I took the first step I wish I had taken 18 years ago.  But it was not too late.  Onward.

Photography Credit: Arthur Fink and Blake Caple

Friday, April 15, 2016

Emory Dance Company Spring Concert 2016 "undertow": Choreographer Spotlight

After a successful opening night, read below about a few of our choreographers and their choreographic process!

Eliza Krakower

Junior, Dance & Movement Studies/ Human Health Double Major

I began this piece with the simple intention of making a work that was pleasing to the eye. It would be dynamic, detailed, and highly athletic. My choreographic process called upon the heightened creativity of my dancers, asking them to explore movement connected to verbal phrases such as popping bubbles or crawling through tubes. With no inner narrative guiding the structure of my piece I leave it up to the audience to draw their own connections and find meaning, or take the work at face value. In a dance about the movement and the architecture that four moving bodies can create I charge my dancers to find the rumble within their bodies that drives all impulses and ideas, and the rhythm beneath their skin that’s biting to escape.   

Jessica Bertram

Junior, Dance & Movement Studies/ Anthropology & Human Biology Double Major

I was initially interested in creating a movement vocabulary that was full of energy, power, and strength. I wanted my dancers to embody a percussive rhythm even without the music score being set. From the beginning, I instructed my dancers to "feel" one another and to stay connected and never leave each other behind. This movement concept and quality transcended into a piece about the agency of the group and the individual. I was captivated by my dancers individuality since their audition process and even though they often dance as "one", it was very important to me that the audience see the dancer's individual story. 

The music score was selected from composer Steve Reich's Early Works, as it combines looped text from the civil rights movement and cuban missile crisis. These historical elements are not only a reflection of the past, but an analysis of why these events are relative and reoccurring today. Almost as to say, why are we still fighting these battles?

The concept of  this piece became layered in themes of politics and spirituality, as my intentions shifted to create a work that dealt with the human struggle. Through exhaustion and physical difficulty, I wanted to portray the fight and commitment towards a common goal. This piece, titled "For Ev'ry Mountain" is touching on taking action and actively overcoming life's obstacles. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Emory Dance Company Spring Concert 2016 "undertow": Choreographer Spotlight

Tonight is the final dress rehearsal before the premiere of "undertow"! Read below about our choreographers as they anxiously await opening night!

Elyse Schupak

Senior, Business and Dance Double Major

In creating a piece for the Emory Dance Company concert this spring, I was interested in exploring disconnect, the idea that we are often the most lonely when we are surrounded by people we love or the most unfulfilled when our lives are filled with achievement. The choreographic process was extremely collaborative. I called upon my dancers to translate the way they experience disconnect into movement and much of that movement was incorporated into the piece.

Working with music was a central element in the choreographic process. I wanted to use familiar songs that many people have a personal connection to. Elvis Presley seemed like a natural fit to create a nostalgic and emotional environment. I strived for the choreography itself to be largely unemotional. I wanted to create juxtaposition between the emotionally charged music and the detached choreography to convey this idea of disconnect.

The title of the piece, Prologue, stems from the idea of exploring what comes before. I am interested in how our experiences, upbringing, and perspective influence our ability to cope with disappointment and failure as well as how they influence how we experience joy and success.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Emory Dance Company Spring Concert 2016 "undertow": Choreographer Spotlight

With just a few days left until opening night, read below about a few of our choreographers and their choreographic process!

Allison Carr

Senior, Neurobehavioral Biology and Dance Double Major

My original idea was to create choreography inspired by the music. This piece explores the dancers' relationship between both the music and between each other on the stage. As the piece progressed, another theme emerged - the power of moving as an individual compared to the power of moving as a group. The piece also explores movement's strength and meaning when dancers move in groups of different sizes.

Virginia Spinks

Junior, Dance & Movement Studies/ Religion & Anthropology Double Major

This work, really began with an idea; the idea of resistance to change. I knew that I also wanted to make a piece with emotional impact. I have learned form my time in the department that often the impact is created in a more effective way when a mover can fully embody an idea or emotion, and pour their intention into their physical performance, rather than focussing on an emotional performance. I then had to figure out how to embody this idea, and I translated it into the physical wish to not want to be moved--to remain stable. Thus, I started with the movement vocabulary, creating it from thinking about a force outside of my body that I was resisting, which created really bound and uncomfortable movement. I did not want the first part of the piece to be aesthetically pleasing--I wanted it to fully embody what it feels like to want to stand your ground despite so much force trying to pull you away. For me, form was secondary--I let the movement create the form. 

Additionally, I knew that I wanted the piece to follow a loose narrative structure that showed what it is like to just accept change--without emotion or judgement. So I decided that the second part of the piece would use the same movement vocabulary as the first, just with a different physical intention in the performance of it. The process of setting this work was challenging at times because I was asking myself and my dancers to work in ways that none of us have worked before. I wanted us to stray away from craving to create a dance that is pleasing to the eye, and to fully invest ourselves in this one particular idea. It was difficult to teach movement vocabulary that was sometimes foreign to the body knowledge and experience my talented dancers have, but through much deep physical work and imagery work, I think we have arrived at the place I intended. I am excited to see how it will all come together this week and to see how the work will be received. The piece is entitled "After It Expires."

Emory Dance Company Spring Concert 2016 "undertow": Choreographer Spotlight

With just a few days left until opening night, read below about a few of our choreographers and their choreographic process!

Cherry Fung

Junior, Dance & Movement Studies Major

As a Beijing native, I have witnessed and experienced the increasing impact of smog on people's lives in the city. From apathy to worry, desperation and pure dejection, people are constantly shifting and readjusting their mental states to better cope with the situation. As a choreographer, I am interested in abstracting movements from behaviors driven by the feelings stated above. Furthermore, I want to explore the concept of individualism and community within my choreography. Inspired by how people deal with smog in Beijing, I want to translate the mental state of a community coping with something unavoidable and seemingly unfixable into movements.

Kaitlin Lipner

Senior, Biology and Dance Double Major

To create this work, I adhered to an overall structure that I imagined before the dancers were even cast. That structure was to start as group, move into a solo for each dancer, and to end as a group. Further, each solo would be framed by the other dancers arranged as if in the corps of a ballet. Very soon after I began choreographing, it became clear that there was something humorous about the piece and I decided to fully embrace the comedy. Ultimately the purpose of this work is two-fold, to both showcase the amazingly talented dancers and also to entertain.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Emory Dance Company Spring 2015: Inside the Choreographer's Mind

Tonight's the night! It's opening night for the Emory Dance Company Spring Concert, "Searchlight"! Read below about our eighth choreographer and what she's been working on this semester.

Taylor Madgett
History Major, Dance & Movement Studies Minor

My choreographic process has helped me to further understand my style of movement and to know that there are endless possibilities to what I can create. From the movement, to the mood, to the music, to characters in the piece, there are many different avenues that I can explore. This process has also helped me to further understand myself and what exactly it is that I am looking to create. I have the entire piece constructed in my head and in a perfect world I would be able to easily create the movement I have pictured. However for me, the difficult part about this whole process is manifesting the idea in your mind to perfectly match the movement you are creating and putting on the stage. Thus far, what I have designed does not exactly mimic what I have been visualizing, and although it isn’t the perfect embodiment of what I had in mind, it has become a pleasant surprise. I feel that what I have created so far matches the overall aesthetic and feeling that I have been seeing. I am happy that what I have created is not the exact replica that I conceived because I think the piece could evolve into something that I never quite envisioned, which could be exactly what the work needs. As a choreographer I find comfort in knowing that there are so many aspects to consider, because I feel that it gives my work a larger amount of potentiality.

Currently I have not decided on a particular theme or overarching meaning for my piece. Right now I would say it is dance for dance sake. At first I was going to explore looking at movement and its relationship to music. I wanted to look at the music as a catalyst for the movement. All of the elements in the music, the melody, harmony, rhythm, and tempo serve to manipulate the body to make forms and shapes relative to the music. I wanted to pose the idea of the body being a separate entity from the mind, with the body only being controlled by the music. I believe I may be moving towards a different idea, but it is still pretty early in the process to know for sure. Looking at what I have made so far I would say that I could possibly be veering towards exploring a community of people and their relationships towards one another through their movement. I am excited to see what unfolds as I continue to journey through creating the piece.

One thing that I am truly thankful for having in the creation process are the feedback sessions. Although the choreographer may not necessarily always agree with the feedback, it serves as a crucial element in the editing process. A pair of fresh eyes is able to see what the choreographer looks over or never realized was there. Having feedback from others can give you new ideas for the piece as well as ways to solve certain problems you may be facing with your choreography or concepts. It also gives choreographers a chance to see how the audience could react to the piece. Depending on the choreographer, knowing how the audience reacts can inform them of their progress during the creation stage. Critiques of the piece could send the piece in a different direction if the feedback did not match the response that the choreographer was looking for or vice versa. I personally think it is valuable to know how your work is being perceived, because it allows you to really decide if the perception matters to you and your work, and how it influences it.

Don't miss the Emory Dance Company Spring Concert, Searchlight! Click here for more details. For more information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website or check out our Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Emory Dance Company Spring 2015: Inside the Choreographer's Mind

It's the final dress rehearsal for the Emory Dance Company Spring Concert "Searchlight"! The dancers and choreographers are all excited to present their hard work as they go through last minute notes and adjustments, and eagerly await opening night!

Carolyn Whittingham
Japanese and Anthropology

Since I came into the semester with pretty solid ideas about my music choices, my process has been strongly driven by creating movement to complement the sound I picked. As a result, my choreographic process has operated in a very linear fashion, where I start choreographing from the beginning of a piece of music until I feel like either the musical or movement idea has been exhausted. For inspiration I would sit down and listen to my music, make note of significant rhythmic or qualitative changes and decided which points made sense as entrance or exit cues or when I would incorporate a transition. Therefore my piece currently has very structured, architectural feel to it based on the systematic approach I have taken to choreographing thus far.

​I always knew I wanted to make a darker piece incorporating physically intense and powerful movement. So far I have been fairly faithful to my original intention, and I have been thinking a lot about how to evoke fierceness from my dancers while maintaining emotional detachment. In doing so, I have ended up including some subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) motifs revolving around power plays, manipulation and violence. So now my new focus is to continue playing with these ideas without wandering too far into the realm of being overly preachy or political.

My greatest challenge has been building confidence and just going for those difficult movements, subversive thematic elements and complex formations. Vetting my ideas through other members of the choreography class and dance teachers and peers has been extremely helpful in encouraging me to be tenacious and try things out before I tell myself that something is impossible. Consequently, my greatest triumphs have been witnessing the successful manifestation of the parts of the piece I was doubtful about. I hope I can continue to confidently proceed with my choreography and put something on stage in April that impact audiences profoundly.

Don't miss the Emory Dance Company Spring Concert, Searchlight! Click here for more details. For more information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website or check out our Facebook page.